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By Daily Bruin Staff

March 3, 1996 9:00 pm


Bad Religion "The Gray Race" (Atlantic) As pop punk bands such
as Green Day, Offspring and Rancid began dominating the airwaves,
the name Bad Religion started appearing in the strangest places –
like mainstream media and MTV. In fact, comparisons to Bad Religion
and reverential statements from members of other bands suddenly
flowed freely in America’s newsprint. After 15 years of inhabiting
the music scene’s darkest recesses, the original American punk band
finally emerged from the shadows. Now, with the release of "The
Gray Race," Bad Religion has officially wrested the modern punk
scene out of the hands of its prodigies. Tempering classic punk
aggression with musical innovation, Bad Religion has created one of
the most captivating albums to grace music’s harder genres in
years. On such tracks as "Parallel" and "Come Join Us," the veteran
rockers demonstrate their unique ability to balance punk’s musical
brutality with a delicate sense of melody. And of course, no Bad
Religion album would be complete without the band’s characteristic
complex choruses. With their layered vocals, tracks such as "Punk
Rock Song" and "Them and Us" hypnotically transport the listener to
Bad Religion’s disturbing reality. And as is Bad Religion’s custom,
the lyrics are replete with expressions of frustration, anger and
anguish about the state of our world. "Ten in 2010," for example,
desperately ponders the inevitability of human overpopulation while
"Pity the Dead" wonders why so many tears are shed for the deceased
when overwhelming suffering exists among the living. Obviously, Bad
Religion has lost none of its edge or intensity since its inception
in 1980. Despite the fact that they’ve got 10 years on most punk
bands, these guys are not over the hill yet. In fact, with its
uncompromising earnestness and mesmerizing musical textures, "The
Gray Race" proves that Bad Religion has never been further from
relinquishing its claim to the throne of contemporary punk music.
J.S. A

Gin Blossoms "Congratulations I’m Sorry" (A&M) Just when you
thought you’d heard "Hey Jealousy" one too many times – get ready
to be bombarded with another album full of songs that sound just
like it. Maintaining the exact musical style as their last album
(right down to the same chord progressions), the Gin Blossoms have
given new meaning to musical mediocrity. The album kicks off with
"Day Job" and "Highwire," two typically fast and somewhat catchy
tunes about school and girls and the like – you know, the usual Gin
Blossoms recipe. Sure, the songs sound great by themselves – but
one after the other, they tend to get monotonous quickly. "Not Only
Numb" offers a short break from the blur of nostalgic adolescent
memories, with its slower pace and actual noticeable differences
from the other songs on the album. In fact, this might be its only
redeeming characteristic, which in itself is sad. "My Car" and "I
Can’t Figure You Out" deliver more of the same style as the
beginning of the album – strong electric guitar and mildly
impressive vocals. However, they’re the same mildly impressive
vocals that were supposed to impress you on "New Miserable
Experience," and their impressiveness has dwindled, to say the
least. The Gin Blossoms have a formula for writing a hit song, and
it is obvious that they intend to stick with it. Unless you loved
their first album, wait to hear these songs on the radio … they
sound better one at a time. B.R. B

Weeping Tile "Cold Snap" (Seed Records) Once you learn the words
to these gripping tunes, you’ll be seduced to sing along and fancy
yourself a rock star. That is, if you can catch up to the crisp
franticness in lead singer Sarah Harmer’s twangy, restless vocal
assaults. The supportive riffs and engaging drum beats, though not
much to speak of on their own, won’t put up a struggle. Clearly,
Weeping Tile is a strong example of a band whose major asset lies
in the weight of its lead singer’s emotional wailings and
purposeful lyrics. It’d be hard to imagine the same group of
performers getting as much monetary attention without the decision
to go with Harmer as front man. Unfortunately, this makes for a
weaker work than one where every instrument screams out to be
adored on its very own. Still, it does allow for a smooth,
controlled, projection of focused sound to make its mark on the
center of your soul, not unlike a summer downpour. Which is how the
album is structured. For example, the first song tells of a storm,
in the midst of building chords and ensuing vocal pressure, while
the work slows to just Harmer on the piano, reflecting on "how
lucky are we to have these wet seasons." Weeping Tile pulls off
this cool concept in "Cold Snap" with grace and clarity. V.V. B

Van Gogh’s Daughter "Shove" (Hollywood) As their voices
harmonize over a killer bass line and murderous beat, Van Gogh’s
Daughter slays a monster of an album with "Shove." Thankfully, this
all-female band steers away from the hokey subject of failed
relationships and concentrates instead on rocking. And do they
rock. No encouragement can be found for pedophiles in their
sometimes husky, sometimes shrieky, real-woman intonations. The
lyrics, composed mostly of poetically empowered vocal reflections,
rip through the base world of rugged pop to reveal a more
thoughtful nature. Unlike other high intensity, raw power artists,
these unglamorous performers release a personal aura without
stating the obvious. For instance, in the song, "Struggle and
Sting," the words, "All my hopes and dreams occasionally fall out a
30-story building," linger in the atmosphere like the descending
emotions of the tune’s author. All the album’s delight is brought
care of only four group members and what sounds like not more than
the most staple of rock instruments. In this day and age, it’s a
rarity for such traditional tools to produce such a refreshing
musical experience. Good as an album to just pop into the stereo to
take the edge off of a tiring day, "Shove" by Van Gogh’s Daughter
gets high marks. V.V. B+

Reviews by Brian Remick, John Sabatini and Vanessa VanderZanden.
Soundbites runs every Monday and Wednesday.

Smashing Pumpkins "Mellon Collie …" A

Tupac Shakur "all eyes on me" A

Group Home "Livin’ Proof" A-

Pulp "Different Class" B+

Tori Amos "Boys for Pele" B+

NOFX "Heavy Petting Zoo" B

Various Artists "Don’t be a Menace …" B Mac Mill "One
Mill-Yon" B-

Aimee Mann "I’m With Stupid" C Seven Mary Three "American
Standard" C-

Canadian Brass "Fireworks!" C-Comments to
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